In many ways, 2013 has been a good year for the property sector. The economy has seen a change in its fortunes and house prices have continued to recover; strongly in London, steadily in most areas beyond. First timers have seen help materialise from the Government, the fracking debate has kicked off with a bang and more planning red tape has been cut to stimulate house production.
Below, we look in more detail at some of the year’s most significant happenings; many of which formed the basis for our own articles, as a prelude to our look towards 2014 and where you might sensibly invest.
The Government’s drive to change the way British planning works continued this year. Following the introduction of the Localism Act 2011 (abandoning regional planning policies) and the creation of a new 50 page National Planning Policy Framework, this year saw changes to Permitted development rights take effect – impacting the residential and commercial sectors.
We wrote an article on the amendments back in June 2013, detailing changes like an increase from 4m to 8m (in terms of distance from the main structure) for single-storey domestic extensions and the removal of a requirement for permission to change use class of a building from Offices (B1a) to Residential Dwellings (C3).
Nick Boles estimated an extra 100,000 homes over three years from the use-class changes, but his plan has met a serious obstacle in the form of a Judicial Review brought by a Coalition of 3 London Councils which it has only just overcome.
Changing the planning laws was partly about ‘localism’ – putting greater power in the hands of communities and their representatives. The trend for this didn’t cease in 2013, although the rate may have slowed:
Changes included the London boroughs of Southwark and Newham becoming the first two councils in decades to unveil large-scale building plans, with Southwark planning 10,000 homes over 30 years and Newham up to 20,000 in an unknown timeframe.
In December, Chancellor George Osborne announced local authority borrowing caps would be increased by £300 million. Councils did welcome the small concession, although many had actually campaigned for months for an altogether removal of the caps.
Pick of the Legal Cases
The beginning of our newsletter is typically our pick of the property related legal cases from the preceding month. 2013 saw some important rulings made and precedents set:
Sims v Dacorum Borough Council  EWCA Civ 12
The Court of Appeal passed final judgement on a case that was the first to challenge the rule of Monk’s compatibility with two articles of the European Convention on Human Rights. Primarily in question here was the rule laid down in Hammersmith LBC v Monk (1992), by which a joint tenant can, without recourse to other joint tenants, end their joint tenancy by serving his or her landlord with a notice to quit. The result was a significant precedent for UK Housing Law.
Zennstrom v Moseley & Wilks  EWHC 288 (TCC)
In an interesting case back in May, we took a close look at when a family home becomes a business venture in the context of the Defective Premises Act 1972. In the case referenced above, Ms Moseley and Ms Wilks found themselves as the Second and Third defendants (of a total of five being sued) in a case brought against them by the purchasers of their £1.1m home.
Those purchasers had successfully bought the home in 2009 and by 2012 it was exhibiting such structural defects that it needed, in the opinion of the claimants and their advisors, complete demolition and rebuilding. Through subsequent litigation, the Zennstroms sought to claim damages from the previous owners under the Defective Premises Act 1972 – on the basis that the previous owners had built it for commercial reasons and should be subject to the same obligation as a commercial developer; ie. to create the building in a “workmanlike manner” and ensure it is “fit for habitation”.
The defendants were excused in this case, but comments made by the presiding judge enforced the need to ensure quality and professionalism when developing or adding to a home.
We covered dozens of cases over the year and you can peruse them all in our online library – here.
In case you missed them…
Every month, we end our newsletter with an amusing or strange titbit from the property world. Here are a couple of our favourites…
France’s very own Great Escape – Three French Prisoners break out of 14th century jailhouse… with just a table leg
Have a look here.
Former pub is transformed into the most fun filled office in the UK – including a helter skelter…
Read more here.
Arts Centre demolished for being 75cm out……careful what you leave out when the estate agents come round……Mr Blobby paint job
Read the rest here.
From all the team here, we wish our valued readers a prosperous and happy 2014.
06/01/2014 SRJ / LCB